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Vascular surgery-related violations of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.

  • Cheng, Thomas W1
  • Farber, Alik1
  • Forsyth, Alexandra M1
  • Levin, Scott R1
  • Haqqani, Maha1
  • Kalish, Jeffrey A1
  • Siracuse, Jeffrey J2
  • 1 Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, Boston Medical Center, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Mass.
  • 2 Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, Boston Medical Center, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Mass. Electronic address: [email protected]
Published Article
Journal of vascular surgery
Publication Date
Aug 01, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.jvs.2020.12.110
PMID: 33548417


The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) is a federal law established in 1986 to ensure that patients who present to an emergency department receive medical care regardless of means. Violations are reported to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and can result in significant financial penalties. Our objective was to assess all available EMTALA violations for vascular-related issues. EMTALA violations in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services publicly available hospital violations database from 2011 to 2018 were evaluated for vascular-related issues. Details recorded were case type, hospital type, hospital region, reasons for violation, disposition, and mortality. There were 7001 patients identified with any EMTALA violation and 98 (1.4%) were deemed vascular related. The majority (82.7%) of EMTALA violations occurred at urban/suburban hospitals. Based on the Association of American Medical Colleges United States region, vascular-related EMTALA violations occurred in the Northeast (7.1%), Southern (56.1%), Central (18.4%), and Western (18.4%) United States. Case types included cerebrovascular (28.6%), aortic related (22.4%; which consisted of ruptured aortic aneurysms [8.2%], aortic dissection [11.2%], and other aortic [3.1%]), vascular trauma (15.3%), venous-thromboembolic (15.3%), peripheral arterial disease (9.2%), dialysis access (5.1%), bowel ischemia (3.1%), and other (1%) cases. Patients were transferred to another facility in 41.8% of cases. The most common reasons for violation were specialty refusal or unavailability (30.6%), inappropriate documentation (29.6%), misdiagnosis (18.4%), poor communication (17.3%), inappropriate triage (13.3%), failure to obtain diagnostic laboratory tests or imaging (12.2%), and ancillary or nursing staff issues (7.1%). The overall mortality was 19.4% and 31.6% died during the index emergency department visit. Vascular conditions associated with death were venous thromboembolism (31.6%), ruptured aortic aneurysm (21.1%), aortic dissection (21.1%), other aortic causes (10.5%), vascular trauma (10.5%), and bowel ischemia (5.3%). Although the frequency of vascular-related EMTALA violations was low, improvements in communication, awareness of vascular disease among staff, specialty staffing, and the development of referral networks and processes are needed to ensure that patients receive adequate care and that institutions are not placed at undue risk. Copyright © 2021 Society for Vascular Surgery. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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